angela's Reviews > Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
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's review
Jul 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: hugo-nebula-winners

There's an adorable, "comfort food" quality to this story - much like English pub food (bangers and mash!!!). It's set in (1) near future Oxford, where the university's History Department occasionally uses the Physics Department's (or someone's) time travel machine to go do some front-line research, AND (2) 13th century "height o' the Plague" Oxford countryside as one History student finds herself inadvertently trapped in the past. Adventure!

One nice bonus of awesome time travel books is the amount of research the author puts into them; it's like having historical fiction embedded into a sci-fi tale. Two in one! I'm not a Black Plague historian, but it sounded real/legitimate enough to me. Plus, I wasn't on a fact-finding mission with this (unlike the protagonist). I was just happy to see the poignant psychological realism Willis invested into both sides of the temporal divide. She also punctuated her near future setting with some fun grace notes of spec weirdness: New Hinduism, for example; new slang ("necrotic!") and so on.

The juxtaposition of a modern plague-like illness felling near future Oxford, right while our heroine watches ye olde Oxfordians drop like flies, was a nice touch too. And it seemed to support Willis' overall meta-thesis: people are people, at any time and place. And we're all scared of getting sick, and time travel machines don't guarantee any invincibility.

Overall, a real page-turner that leaves you feeling satisfying, warm and fuzzy.

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